It is Not Good that Man Should Have No Problems
Is Life itself soluble? Science obviously solves innumerable little problems, but can it solve the big problem of Life itself?
First of all, life is definitely a problem. While it is surely a "gift," it is a gift that comes with a problem -- somewhat like a child. By its very nature, you can't just enjoy the fun parts and forget about the challenges and difficulties. The main problem of life is how to keep from dying while trying to figure out why it's even worth the bother. Or, it's like trying valiantly to win a complex game at the very same time you are trying to figure out the rules.
Marvelous gift, useless gift, for what purpose were you given us? --Alexander Pushkin
Or, as Bob asked in the book, "Why this living, struggling little sub-universe consisting of mindless circles of lateral mutation? So much variety and yet so little meaningful novelty, the 'mere sport of nature' in a 'vain, unnecessary world,' with all the pointless pageantry and nonexistent morality of a Mike Tyson fight." Bob continues (emphasis mine):
"Before life, there were no problems in the universe -- nothing could go wrong because nothing had to go right. But life's reckless emancipation from matter brought forth a nagging tension, an unresolvable conflict, an inherent incompleteness in the cosmos. In a sense, life was a dis-ease of matter in a literal sense, just as mind is a dis-ease of biology, an alien condition with no backward looking cure (short of death or unconsciousness) that can return it to a state of ease or wholeness. The only way out of this fatal predicament seemed to be forward and inward, in a never-ending balancing act between helpless dependence upon, and open defiance of, matter. Life groped blindly on because that was the only alternative."
Science helps us to go on living. For example, I am very well aware of the fact that Bob is living on borrowed or perhaps stolen time, in that he would have been dead three years ago in the absence of medical developments that have made it so easy for him to control his diabetes. A hundred years ago, someone in our position would have just wasted away in a few months, unable to metabolize sugar. Since adult-onset type 1 diabetes is a completely genetic condition, I'm assuming that this is exactly what happened to many of our distant relatives, if they were lucky enough to live into their 40s. For example, life expectation was only 35 in revolutionary America, and around 47 in 1900. So if we were alive back then, most of us would be dead anyway.
As I said, science is helpless to provide any guidance here. Not only that, but it sows confusion by suggesting that you are wasting your time if you turn to religion to address the problems of Life and Mind. But let's have a look anyway, and see what we can find. At least before Future Leader wakes up, which could be any minute.
According to Genesis, there was a time when life was not problematic. Well, not exactly. The text implies that there was a problem in Eden, and that was man's "aloneness." We shouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that the problem was "loneliness," or even that man had the capacity to be aware of his aloneness. Rather, it seems to have been a problem recognized by God, who said that "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Note that this is the first thing in creation that is said to be "not good"; this is a critical point.)
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this is where the real problems begin, for as Pastor Elvis sang, Well a hard headed woman / A soft hearted man / Been the cause of trouble / Ever since the world began. In the next verse, Elvis explains the nature of the problem:
Now Adam told Eve,
Listen here to me,
Don't you let me catch you
Messin' round that apple tree.
So now man has a problem. But, appreciating the irony of the situation, Elvis concludes his homily on Genesis by acknowledging that
I got a woman,
A head like a rock.
If she ever went away
I'd cry around the clock.
So we see how life is ultimately a problem we wish to have. After all, only a tiny minority of us choose suicide or celibacy. The game must be worth the candle, whatever that means.
Anyway, since Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and God immediately recognizes that it is "not good" that Man should be alone, this seems to imply that God knows that it was not good for God himself to have been alone, or allOne. Could it be that the polarity between man and woman somehow repeats the polarity of God and man?
Now, first of all, don't necessarily begin with man and woman; rather, let's think about this in more cosmic terms, by using the universal categories of male and female; or active and passive; or yin and yang; or prakriti and purusha; or shiva and shakti. Or, as it is written in the mostserious Book of Petey,
One in agni & ecstasy has given birth to Two: spirit-matter, earth-sky, knower-known, sun-moon, cats & chicks, Chaos Control, Lennon-McCartney, God & Darwin, Adam & Evolution. A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion.
While I'm thinking of it, let's turn to a passage in Heller's Creative Tension. He points out that recent developments in deterministic chaos theory have demonstrated that "there are strong reasons to believe that a certain amount of randomness is indispensable for the emergence and evolution of organized structures.... Randomness is no longer perceived as a competitor of God, but rather as a powerful tool in God's strategy of creating the world." He quotes the physicist Paul Davies, who wrote that,
"God is responsible for ordering the world, not through direct action, but by providing various potentialities which the physical universe is then free to actualize. In this way, God does not compromise the essential openness and indeterminism of the universe, but is nevertheless in a position to encourage a trend toward good. Traces of this subtle and indirect influence may be discerned in the progressive nature of biological evolution, for example, and the tendency for the universe to self-organize into a richer variety of ever more complex forms."
In a similar vein, he quotes A. R. Peacocke: "On this view God acts to create the world through what we call 'chance' operating within the created order, each stage of which constitutes the launching pad for the next."
So the bottom line is that if your life were totally planned, it couldn't be. In other words, the more you attempt to tamp down randomness and chance, the more you are likely to create disorder. To put it another way, there is a higher principle at work, which uses randomness and chaos to break up evolutionary impasses and "lure" the system toward its own destiny, so to speak. We must surrender to this destiny, as each of us, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo, is a "unique problem of God."
Or you could say that "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity," or that twoness resolves the problem of oneness through the discovery and synthesis of eternal threeness, in which Love abides.
Perfect timing. My beautiful problem just woke up. I just hope this post didn't solve anything for you. At least on purpose.
Now, if you haven't got an answer, you'd never have a question
And if you never had a question, then you'd never have a problem
But if you never had a problem, well everyone would be happy
But if everyone was happy, there'd never be a love song. --Harry Nilsson, Joy